It was another full schedule for the last day of the film festival. I started off with a bit of music at KUT's (NPR affiliate) showcase of music at the Four Seasons Hotel from 8am - 12noon. Yes, that is right, 8am. Four bands were showcased each day from Thursday to Saturday, and I only managed to make it to the last day. The artists I caught that morning were Kelly Hogan, My Jerusalem, Billy Bragg and True Believers. I stayed for the first three then headed out to some more live music before settling in the last three movies of my festival calendar.
Pete and Toshie Get a Camera is a documentary that intercuts modern day interviews with the 16mm footage filmed by Toshi Seeger when she and her husband Pete Seeger took their family around the world in 1964 to film musicians from the most remote corners of the earth. The idea started 55 years ago Pete Seeger did not name names at the McCarthy hearings and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Out on appeal, blacklisted, watched by the FBI, he buys an old camera and with his wife Toshi they decide to start making small films with about their friends. It is a slice of life and a purity of intent. A belief that music binds us all and learning from each other is a wonderful thing.
That was the end of the lighthearted portion of my day. The next film was At Any Price by Ramin Bahrani. This study of modern farming in Ohio, USA focuses on a family farm run by Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) and how he tries to compete in the rigged game of corn growing with genetically modified seeds and increasing costs. Zac Ephron plays his rebellious son, Dean. This is a film that slowly becomes claustrophobic as it upends all concepts of the American dream, the myth of the American male and the devastation of systems that are strangling modern agriculture. Very good, but tough.
The closing night movie was The East, one of the best films I have seen this year. Like Argo and The Ghost Writer, these are adult thrillers similar to the great political thrillers of the 1970s like Klute, Three Days of The Condor and All The President's Men. Directed by Zal Batmanglij and co-written by Zal and leading actress Brit Marling the film delves into the world of corporate espionage. Sarah (Brit Marling) is a brilliant operative in one of the top corporate security firms and she is sent to infiltrate and report on an anarchist collective run by Benji (Alexander Skarsgard) and Izzy (Ellen Page). It is a cracking eco-thriller. Although you can see the twists coming it does not diminish the fun of the film and the great cast. It was a great film to finish nearly 10 days of the SXSW Film Festival, especially as the cast and crew did Q&A after the film. If the future of film is in the hands of these talented people, we have quite few great movies to look forward to.